Would You Rather Be Funnier or Smarter?

Slate's weekly political roundtable.
Dec. 27 2013 2:26 PM

The 2013 Conundrums Gabfest

Listen to Slate's special year-end show about life's most confounding questions, as submitted by listeners.

Slate Political Gabfest, recorded live at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco, with David Plotz, Emily Bazelon and John Dickerson.
Slate Political Gabfest, recorded live at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco, with David Plotz, Emily Bazelon, and John Dickerson.

Photo by Andy Bowers

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To listen to the discussion, use the player below:


On this week’s Slate Political Gabfest, recorded live at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco, Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz wrap up 2013 by wrestling with questions of politics, philosophy, ethics, taste, and parenting practices.

Here's a list of the conundrums discussed, along with the names of the people who posed them (where available):

 Would you rather be funnier or smarter than you are?

  • You have a wonderful child. You discover when the child is 1 year old that because of a mix-up at the hospital, the child is not actually yours. Do you try to return it to its biological parents? –Jody Avirgan of Ask Roulette
  • You are now president of your alma mater. Because of budgetary concerns, you have to cut a department. Which one do you cut? –Matt Cook
  • Who would you travel back in time to kill? It can't be Hitler, Mao, or Stalin. –Phil Goldstein
  • Since an individual vote never makes a difference, why should you bother to vote? –Julius Schorzman
  • If you were president, would you rather be remembered for having really great domestic policy and really lousy foreign policy, or the reverse? –Alex
  • Which fictional character would you want to be (for a relatively short period)? –Phil Goldstein
  • Part I: You are standing next to a train switch. A train is barreling down the track. If it continues on its current path, it will run over five people who are tied to the tracks. If you flip the switch, the train will change tracks and run over one person. Do you flip the switch? Part II: You're standing on a bridge over the track. A train is coming, and there are five people tied to the track. However, you happen to be standing next to a fat person, and if you throw him/her off the bridge, the person's body will stop the train. Do you do it?
  • If you were running for Congress, would you rather it come out that you're gay or that you're an atheist?
  • What do we do when we can't find a conclusive answer, legally or morally, in rape accusation cases like the one involving Jameis Winston?
  • Should you have kids before you're 25 or after you're 35? –Sidney Innerebner
  • Would you rather have a great job and live in a not-so-great city, or a mediocre job in an awesome city? –Glenn Shepard
  • Would you rather be very ignorant and very happy, or very intelligent and very unhappy?
  • You're going to eat pie. You can only be guaranteed excellence in either the crust or the filling. Which would you pick? –Clara Jeffrey

John, Emily, David, and special guest Clara Jeffrey of Mother Jones chattered about their favorite moments in 2013.

David's favorite moment was riding dune buggies with his family at the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area.

John's favorite moment was the arrival of Pope Francis.

Clara's favorite moment was when Batkid saved San Francisco.

Emily's favorite moment was the Supreme Court's gay marriage decisions.

Topic ideas for next week? You can tweet suggestions, links, and questions to @SlateGabfest. The email address for the Political Gabfest is gabfest@slate.com. (Email may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Podcast production by Andy Bowers and Mike Vuolo. Links compiled by Rebecca Cohen.

Emily Bazelon was a Slate senior editor from 2005 to 2014. She is the author of Sticks and Stones.

John Dickerson is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of On Her Trail. Read his series on the presidency and on risk.

David Plotz is Slate's editor at large. He's the author of The Genius Factory and Good Book.



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